Planning Your Rehearsal Dinner

When do you host a rehearsal dinner? Who's on the guest list? Who foots the bill? All your rehearsal dinner questions, answered.

Wedding table setting via Shutterstock

Wedding table setting via Shutterstock

The concept of a rehearsal dinner is a no-brainer: It’s the dinner held after the wedding rehearsal. But when you start to ponder the finicky details (who pays, who’s invited, where to hold it), things get a little fuzzy. Here are a few guidelines on how to successfully plan the party that comes before the party.

The location: A favorite restaurant is always a good choice, but make sure that it’s close to your rehearsal site. You’ll also want to choose a location where you can book a private room. This way, you can celebrate without worrying about wandering eyes gawking at your personal slideshows or eavesdropping ears overhearing your emotional toasts.

The timing: Experts say you should make a reservation for a rehearsal dinner at least three to five months in advance of the wedding. Try to schedule the dinner on a Thursday night if you’re exchanging vows on Saturday, Friday night if your big day is Sunday. This gives all rehearsal dinner guests (yourself included) the chance to eat and drink to your hearts’ content without having to worry about looking bright-eyed for your nuptials. Since rehearsal dinners are typically held on weeknights, be considerate to your 9-to-5 friends and keep the timing commuter-friendly by starting the dinner around 7 p.m.

The invitations: Rehearsal dinner invitations should be sent out separately from your other wedding invitations. But don’t feel like you need to have something formal and calligraphed (unless you want to). While a wedding invite is typically elegant and refined, the one announcing a rehearsal dinner can be a great showcase for your creative and colorful side. Send the rehearsal invitations four weeks before your restaurant reservation date—and since this is a sit-down dinner, RSVPs are a must.

The guest list: The usual gang is bridesmaids, groomsmen, ushers, your officiant, and flower girls and ring bearers with their parents, plus any out-of-town family and friends. If your budget doesn’t stretch far enough to include everyone who traveled in for the event, invite the traditional group to the rehearsal dinner, then meet up with close friends and out-of-towners later at a nearby bar or restaurant for late-night apps and drinks.

The bill: Traditionally, the rehearsal dinner is paid for by the groom’s parents. But as lines are blurred on who pays for what these days, and expenses are often shared by both families or the couple themselves, families might choose to have an open discussion about who foots the bill. Remember: Whoever pays the tab should also have some say in making the decisions.

The toast: This honor usually goes to the groom’s father, as he toasts the happy couple. Then it’s the groom’s turn, as he takes center stage to toast his wife-to-be. The bride joins her man to thank their close friends and family for supporting their love and being a part of the celebration. There’s a whole lot of thanking going on—and it’s just the beginning. Enjoy.


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